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Texas philanthropist, educator and leader Teresa Lozano Long has died at age 92

Michael Barnes
Austin American-Statesman
Teresa Lozano Long, longtime educator, philanthropist and community leader, died Sunday. “We always said that if we made enough money, we needed to help the people of Texas," she said in 2019.

Teresa Lozano Long, major philanthropist, longtime educator and community leader, died after a long illness Sunday evening at age 92.

For decades, she and her husband, retired lawyer Joe Long, gave money and provided leadership for the performing arts, health science and education. Their total gifts to Texas nonprofits and universities have topped $150 million.

“The beautiful, brilliant and beloved Dr. Teresa Altagracia Lozano Long was a dairy farmer’s daughter from Premont who became a legend in her own time," said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. "Altagracia translates literally into 'high grace' or 'very gracious,' so 'gracious' really is Terry’s middle name. Known as the University of Texas’ Mother Teresa, she was as kind and lovely as she was fierce and focused on creating a better future, especially for low-income Mexican Americans, through education and the arts."

In 2018, the Longs received the UT System’s highest honor, the Santa Rita Award.

Yet their greatest gift might have been their lives together. Products of small-town Texas, Teresa Lozano and Joe Long knew the value of good schooling and passed that wisdom to the next several generations.

From the moment they met in Alice, they appeared to be a matched pair. Although the couple came from little money, later profits made in the legal and banking fields eventually allowed them to be generous.

Through the Long Foundation, for instance, the couple set up a $10 million permanent fund for scholarships for Hispanic youths across the state. They love hearing from students in “teeny-tiny” towns who would not be able to attend college otherwise.

“We always said that if we made enough money, we needed to help the people of Texas," Teresa Long said in 2019.

Teresa Long's legacy helping the people of Texas

Born July 20, 1928, Teresa Long grew up on a dairy farm in Premont in South Texas and graduated as valedictorian of Premont High School in 1945. She attended UT and eventually earned a doctorate in physical education in 1965.

From the earliest days, Teresa and Joe made strategic decisions together about how to help their fellow Texans. Their giving always included a healthy dose of personal participation.

In 2002, Teresa Long was appointed to the national council that advises the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2005, Teresa and Joe jointly received the Texas Medal of the Arts for their philanthropy. In 2010, Teresa was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. In November 2019, President Donald Trump presented her with the National Humanities Medal, among the country’s highest civilian honors.

Teresa Lozano Long listens to a presentation during the November 2007 meeting of the National Council on the Arts in Washington. Long and her husband, Joe, donated $150 million to various Texas causes for the arts and health science over many years.

“I wish really it was given to my husband and me,” she told the American-Statesman at the time, “since we do everything together.”

The Longs are perhaps best known in Austin as the namesakes of the Long Center for the Performing Arts, the large theater complex on the shores of Lady Bird Lake that includes a completely renovated portion of the old Palmer Auditorium. Almost two decades ago, the Longs donated more than $20 million to the project, at a time when gifts of such size were rarely heard of in Austin.

Robert Barnes, president and CEO of International Bank of Commerce-Austin, hugs Teresa Lozano Long, president of the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts, before a 2013 press conference announcing that the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts' musical instrument donation drive was helping nine Austin-area music programs.

Scholars and students are also aware that the couple endowed the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at UT with a $10 million gift. In 2017, a $25 million gift allowed them to name the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“South Texas, where I grew up, did not have many doctors,” Teresa Long said in 2019. “If my mother got sick, my father took her to San Antonio. This was before air-conditioned cars, so we got up very early in the morning to sit in the waiting room. There were no telephones where we lived.”

On March 12, a fire destroyed much of the former Long Estate mansion in the Old Enfield neighborhood of Austin. The Longs, who spent years remodeling the 1940 house, had previously sold their museum-quality art collection and had moved into a Central Austin retirement community in 2019.

'A woman of grace and serenity'

As news spread of Teresa Long's death Monday morning, the high praise rolled in.

“The Santa Rita Award, the board of regents’ highest honor bestowed on private citizens, is presented rarely — only 28 times since its inception 58 years ago — and only to those who have the most immeasurable and remarkable impact on UT institutions," said James B. Milliken, chancellor of the UT System. "That Teresa, along with her husband, Joe, were selected for this unique and esteemed award, speaks to their extraordinary generosity, their love of UT and their unfettered desire to make Texas a better place through culture, health care and education.”

Teresa Lozano Long unveils a plaque in her honor at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections at the University of Texas in 2015.

"Terry Lozano Long lived a rich and meaningful life," said Virginia Garrard, former director of the Lozano Long Institute at UT. "She loved the world deeply, and in turn, she was deeply loved. ...  Her graciousness, her unwavering good spirit, her fierce determination and her kindness are irreplaceable."

“Teresa Lozano Long was a remarkable citizen and friend," said Larry R. Faulkner, UT president emeritus, "a woman of grace and serenity. Throughout her adult life, she was in ambitious partnership with her husband, Joe, building institutions and creating opportunities, especially for those who will make up the Texas to come. She was a blessing to all who knew her.”

Teresa Lozano Long and her husband, Joe R. Long, arrive at the Paramount Theatre for the 2005 Texas Medal of Arts Awards. They were the 2005 honorees for Individual Arts Patron.

“Terry and Joe — it’s hard to say Terry without saying Joe — were such extraordinary partners in every thing they did in life,” said Randa Safady, vice chancellor of external relations, communications and advancement services for the UT System. “They had the perfect love story. They made Texas look like what they thought it should look like by giving young people the opportunity to be the best they could be. She gave him the best life imaginable; he gave her the best life imaginable; and together they gave the people of Texas the best lives imaginable.”

A public graveside service will be held at Cook-Walden/Capital Parks Cemetery, 14501 N. Interstate 35 in Pflugerville, at 10 a.m. March 24.

In lieu of flowers, the Long family requests that memorial contributions be made to Austin Soundwaves, Avance-Austin or the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation, all organizations created to help young people achieve their fullest potential.

Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be reached at mbarnes@statesman.com.